How to Change Your Mind (2022) s01e03 Episode Script

Chapter 3: MDMA

I can't stop thinking about love.
Sometimes, people do have
blissful experiences in the MDMA session.
Now it's speeding up.
Love, love, love.
Tell them you love them.
Tell them you love them.
But I would say, in general,
it's a lot of hard work.
Nothing changes you like combat.
It's not a movie.
We have a tool
that can give people access
to their own innate healing capacity.
One of the striking things
we've seen in the study so far
is that the same general approach
works very well
for different kinds of trauma.
War trauma. Sexual trauma.
I get stuck in this very, um
downward spiral of feeling like hopeless.
I've talked to so many women
that have experienced sexual assault.
People can take medications,
antidepressants, every day for years,
and they are numbing
the signs and symptoms,
but the trauma is still impacting them.
If you go
into an orthopedic surgeon
with a broken ankle,
they mend your ankle,
you're discharged from service
and you're done for life.
Because the treatment's worked.
Why can't psychiatry be like that?
And it became very frustrating
to see patients not getting better
and very frustrating to see the way
we use pharmacology in psychiatry
to treat symptoms,
but not the root cause of problems.
I'm so scared.
I need a way out.
I need a way out. I need a way out.
Psychedelic-assisted psychotherapy
is not just treating the symptoms.
It's getting to the root cause,
which is the trauma.
It's the fear of the fear itself.
I know, I know. It always has been.
I'm a fairly conservative, sober,
evidence-based kind of scientist,
but I've seen it work.
So far
in my psychedelic journey,
I've explored LSD and psilocybin.
But it's MDMA, otherwise known as ecstasy,
that stands poised to become
the first of this group of banned drugs
to be legalized for treatment.
That brings me to the place
where this chapter
of the psychedelic renaissance begins,
in the laboratory of a legendary chemist
named Sasha Shulgin.
Hello, Paul.
Michael. So good to see you again.
Paul Daley was Sasha's colleague
and today carries on his legacy.
MDMA. Is it a psychedelic?
How is it like
and unlike those substances?
Well Okay, broadly speaking, uh
you know the term psychedelic
comes from the Greek psyche and delos,
so it's mind-manifesting.
So certainly from
that broad kind of definition,
you could say that that MDMA
is a psychedelic,
but the mechanism of action
is quite different
from psilocybin, mescaline, LSD.
Those three turn on
the serotonin 2A receptor,
which is accepted now as
the main seat of the psychedelic effect.
MDMA works differently.
It causes a flood of serotonin.
So this feeling of openness,
of loving connection to others
is really ascribed
to that flood of serotonin.
So this molecule MDMA disappears
from science, as far as we know
- Pretty much. For many years.
- For many years.
And Sasha's contribution was
to bring it back or resynthesize it.
Why was Sasha able to do this
without fear of getting busted?
Well, first off, he was
a world-renowned expert in the field,
of which there were not many.
And Sasha had a Schedule I license
from the DEA.
You're making material
that's never been looked at before.
Is it psychedelic? You don't know.
Can't go to the literature, it's not
in the literature. It's brand new.
So where did MDMA come from?
Well, it's got this weird history
that doesn't
exactly parallel psychedelic history.
It was patented back in 1912 by Merck,
one of the world's
leading pharmaceutical companies,
when its researchers were looking
for a blood-clotting agent.
And in the process
of developing this drug,
they synthesized MDMA.
They never tested it.
They never marketed it.
It just sat on the shelf until the 1970s.
That's when Sasha Shulgin synthesized it.
It was out of patent.
And as he did
with all his research chemicals,
he took it himself first at small doses,
escalating gradually,
and he found
that it had really interesting qualities.
Fifty-three minutes smooth shift
into a light intoxication.
Distinct, almost early
alcohol-like intoxication.
Using the art of a chemist,
I saw a potential new tool
used in therapy,
in human relationships
or a person's relationship with himself.
It was through Sasha Shulgin
that MDMA was
first introduced to Leo Zeff,
a retired Bay Area psychotherapist.
Leo took a couple of looks
at him and said,
"What are you on?
And where can I get some?"
And he realized immediately the effect
it could have in psychiatric practice.
Leo tried it and was
so impressed with how it works,
that he decided to come out
of retirement and work with it,
but also to train other therapists.
The group trip is different
than the individual.
The experience evokes
tremendous amount of feeling
of love and closeness,
that people want to be close
and hug each other and love each other,
and have love puddles,
where they all get together and just
hug each other and love each other.
And when they know
there's not gonna be any sex,
nobody's worried about what might happen.
- Yeah.
- They can let go
to their really loving feelings
and they just have a marvelous time.
How have entheogens
and psychedelics
changed your relationship?
You seem so much
in love with each other.
Have they opened your hearts
to each other?
I don't know.
I think we would have been, uh,
pretty much good friends anyway.
But, it's confirmed our being a team,
- which is very nice.
- Yeah.
And Ann Shulgin his wife,
tried MDMA.
She too was very impressed with it,
and told her friends.
She was friends with a whole community
of therapists in the Bay Area
and they quickly took it up.
This was a legal drug at the time,
this is the late '70s, early '80s.
Ann would later write
about MDMA and other drug experiences
in her and Sasha's psychedelic opus,
PiHKAL: A Chemical Love Story.
You have lived to see
this medicine
that you have had such an important role
in introducing people to,
now getting recognized.
The The magic of MDMA
is that it allows you to see who you are
without a self-rejection.
That is what it's for, is insight.
It doesn't have the
the moving walls and,
you know, speaking roses, but
But it it gives you insight
into yourself and it's
especially good for PTSD.
The first time
that I was ever diagnosed with PTSD
was right after Hurricane Katrina.
Everybody that I know was diagnosed
with PTSD
because we had all gone
through this traumatic event.
Before that, I thought that PTSD
was something that happened to soldiers.
The home that I was in was destroyed,
I evacuated.
And then after that, in 2006,
I was raped and I subsequently
became pregnant from that rape,
and had to seek an abortion, um,
which in the South is
a traumatic event on its own.
The hits just kinda kept coming
in a way that I was not fully able
to process any of it.
There was such a part of me
that did not want to be defined
by these tragedies that had happened
to me.
I wanted to sweep them all under the rug.
I didn't want to be known
as the girl whose brother overdosed.
Didn't wanna be known
as the girl whose mother
killed two people and herself.
And that was before I had been raped.
So in my quest to heal myself,
I took antidepressants, anti-anxieties,
I took medicine for ADHD,
and none of those ever got
to the core of the problem.
They just masked me into,
maybe not wanting to kill myself,
but also not really wanting
to do anything.
I didn't feel any closer to who I am.
So when I was accepted into the study,
I was hesitant
because I had tried so many therapies,
just basically I've thrown everything
but the kitchen sink at myself.
So, really throughout your life,
you always had to pretend
to the outside world
that things were a certain way.
MDMA therapy is specifically
this perfect scenario to deal with trauma.
People can talk about their trauma
and process it in different ways.
I've been so adamant
about not allowing it to define me,
that it's like slowly been destroying me.
I was just running this constant anxiety
and fear loop in my mind all the time.
Underneath the surface,
constantly worrying, constantly afraid.
There must be some reason
I deserve these things.
Because otherwise,
why would they keep happening?
In PTSD, the amygdala
is hyperactive
and that's the part of the brain
that is involved
with the fight or flight response.
And the kind of the rationalization part
of the brain is not as active,
and with MDMA that's reversed.
Try imagining yourself
as a little girl.
As the drug came on,
the most beautiful memories were coming
to me of my brother Davin and I.
There was one in particular
of us playing in the snow together.
I remember feeling in my body,
the excitement of a child when they
feel snow and the joy of just playing.
I hadn't felt that level of joy
in so long in my life.
And at that point, I hadn't
really thought of Davin very much.
The situation with my mother really
overshadowed the loss of my brother.
For me to lose him was so hard
you know?
Because he was two years older
than me,
we grew up, we did everything together
and we looked alike
and people thought we were twins.
When my brother was 22 years old,
he came to visit me to celebrate
his 22nd birthday
and the night of his birthday,
he went out and he overdosed, and he died.
For my mother, this was a moment where
she really didn't ever truly recover.
I know that a lot
of my mother's demise
was because she lost her son.
In July of 2005,
I was trying to reach my mother
on the phone and I couldn't get her.
Then I tried to reach her partner Julie,
who I was extremely close with,
and I couldn't reach her either.
And I was also trying to reach Lark,
who is a very close friend
of the family, and I couldn't reach her.
So I ended up driving
to my mother's house.
My mother had been sitting
in a rocking chair,
and I could see the lividity
of the blood in her arm.
And I could see her revolver
on the floor in front of her.
And that she had shot herself
through the heart.
And so there was such a fear
of walking any further in,
because of what else I'd discover.
I couldn't recall certain things.
It was as if my memory
of the circumstances was a videotape
and someone had come in and edited out
certain parts of that videotape.
And in my MDMA session,
I was able to go into that memory
and walk fully back into that room.
Julie's body was in the den
and Lark was on
the other side of the room.
And my mother shot
both Julie and Lark through the heart.
I completely, at the time,
disassociated from the event
because it was just
too much for me to take in.
I had these three women
that were such a huge part of my life.
And then to lose all that and so quickly
you know,
left me completely untethered
and trying to navigate
what to do with that
horrendous fear.
Hearing people come to this place,
it's like this energy is in the room
where you can feel that they're
coming from their deepest truth.
I mean, I I literally get the chills
just talking about it even right now
because it's so powerful.
Are you confident
you're gonna keep on feeling it all?
Or are you scared about that?
I think it's about practice.
One of the beautiful things
that came out of this
is that I was able to finally be present
to my life, like,
because of my PTSD,
it robbed me of my own life for years.
You know, trauma history aside,
I have a very wonderful life,
and I have a beautiful family,
and I have a beautiful home and I'm safe.
And so to be in an experience wholly,
not just your mind, not just your body,
but to wholly be present for something
is such a gift,
'cause that's where we have
this capacity for the most joy,
or the most pain, or whatever it is,
but at least we feel it.
And we know it's real
and we experience it,
as opposed to living dully in a life
where you're just constantly afraid,
where you can't access the love
that surrounds you.
I actually didn't even know
psychedelics had been used
in the field of psychiatry back in the,
you know, '50s, '60s, and '70s.
In all of my schooling and training
that was never mentioned.
So I'd like to open up this
afternoon's program with Timothy Leary.
How about a round of applause
for our host here? Huh?
In Rick Doblin, we have a case
of another passionate amateur
changing the course of history.
I mean, he really is a hero
of this movement.
What made us so convinced
of the potential of MDMA was taking MDMA.
You know? And seeing what came from it.
I took it with my girlfriend
and seeing how we could discuss
difficult emotional issues
with a lot more peace,
a lot more respect, a lot more listening.
And it just felt so profound.
I had decided this is my calling
when I was 18.
I started experimenting with psychedelics,
with LSD, with mescaline,
and it started opening me up
to my emotions.
My family is Jewish and I was raised
on stories of the Holocaust.
I grew up with a bunch
of these violent political assassinations.
The Vietnam War was raging.
The riots were happening in America.
I thought, if people can have
this experience of connection
connection with nature,
connection with everything,
then it's going to be harder
to dehumanize others,
and it's gonna be harder
to commit genocide,
and it's gonna be harder to see people
as your enemy that you have to kill.
And so, I thought, what I'll start to do
is prepare to be a psychedelic therapist.
When I found out about MDMA in 1982,
around half a million doses
had been used
in these underground therapy settings.
MDMA was legal until 1985,
but like the psychedelics,
it "escaped" the lab, or the therapy room,
and entered the counterculture.
One of the people that had
tried MDMA in these therapeutic circles
decided to brand it as "ecstasy,"
and build a massive distribution.
People were able to purchase it
by calling an 800 number
using their credit cards.
It was sold in open settings and then it
was being marketed, um,
as a legal substance.
And so it was just obvious that
the police were gonna pick up on this.
Ecstasy, the psychedelic of the '80s.
Tuning in, turning on,
and dropping out, 1985.
What was then happening was Phil Donahue
was doing a TV show about MDMA. Ecstasy.
I was in the audience.
Well, guess what? We've got another drug.
And it makes you love everybody.
It's called ecstasy.
Now who doesn't want to take ecstasy?
Phil, the drug The drug has been around
for several years,
but what we've seen
in the last couple of years
is an escalation of the availability.
What are you concerned about?
A lot of young kids bouncing around?
Precisely. The other thing is,
when we apprehend these people,
they can be dealt with.
It's not presently against the law.
- You can't apprehend them?
- We cannot.
- But you really want to, don't you?
- I think it's important.
It was clear that it was doomed.
On The Phil Donahue Show, you heard there
was this potential scare of neurotoxicity
and Gene Haislip decided
to declare an emergency.
This morning,
The Drug Enforcement Administration
is announcing its intention
to place the drug known as MDMA,
or by the street name ecstasy,
under emergency controls and Schedule I.
You must have had
strong feelings
when MDMA was made illegal.
- I mean, here was this material you were
- I cried.
You did? You cried?
I phoned everyone I knew.
Everyone I knew phoned everyone they knew.
I think I wasn't
the only one crying, believe me.
I mean that was such a loss.
And people were using it
at the time and just had to stop.
Well, no, they went underground.
The DEA had no knowledge
of the therapeutic use of MDMA.
All they knew was ecstasy.
So when it was emergency scheduled, um,
I just felt heartbroken.
That's when I realized that to really
move forward we needed an FDA strategy.
Just as MDMA
was being criminalized,
Doblin launched a non-profit,
the Multidisciplinary Association
for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS,
with the improbable mission
of bringing psychedelics like MDMA
back into mainstream medicine.
The purpose of this benefit
is to try to both bring us all together
as a community,
but also to try to raise funds,
to stimulate more research
into trying to make MDMA into a medicine.
But in order to do this,
Doblin realized
that he would first have to master
the whole federal drug approval process,
a daunting and complex regulatory regime.
So he enrolls in a PhD program
at the Kennedy School at Harvard,
and gets his PhD.
And what is his dissertation?
And it's this thick.
I I happen to own a copy of it.
It's the drug approval process
from beginning to end
and how you would get MDMA approved.
It, in fact, is the road map that everyone
in this movement is following,
not just people trying
to get MDMA approved,
but the people that are trying
to get psilocybin approved.
They're following a map
laid out by Rick Doblin.
1988 was dubbed the second summer of love
because of the explosion of ecstasy,
and, uh, house music and raves.
However, in the UK
ecstasy was already illegal.
I was 18, living in London as a student,
going to medical school.
It was a really special time.
There were old hippies
who'd done all this in the '60s.
Lots and lots of kids. Black and white.
There was no ego, no male aggression.
No patriarchy.
It really was, as cheesy as it sounds,
this kind of generation coming together
to worship the bass.
The drug MDMA was essential
to the development of rave.
It was what bound everyone together.
I can remember one time after a rave,
all of us lying around all loved up
and somebody said, "Oh wow.
This is amazing. So beautiful.
Everything's so perfect."
And someone said,
"Let's think of
the worst thing we can imagine."
And someone said,
"Let's Let's imagine our mums dying,"
and then someone said
"It's not that bad," and,
I didn't know it then,
but that really was what MDMA does.
It allows you to think about and go to
those dark, difficult,
forbidden, avoidant memories
that you normally
wouldn't be able to touch.
But for some reason on MDMA,
the fear and pain that would be associated
with those memories is switched off.
One of the things that's really driven me
in my work with children and abuse
is you see how the general public have
so much empathy
and gushing sentimentality
for abused children and these poor little
three, four, five, six-year-olds.
By their twenties and thirties,
they're alcoholic
and they're addicted to heroin.
And suddenly the public have turned off
their empathy switch,
and we've forgotten
the developmental roots of that.
And so, as I moved in my own career
away from child and adolescent psychiatry
into adult's addictions,
what became patently clear
was that these patients
in their thirties, forties, fifties,
with alcohol and opioid addictions
were the same cohort
of little four, five, six-year-olds
that I'd cared for in the past.
This is B17, session two.
I knew that trauma underpinned a lot
of addictions and particularly alcoholism.
But no one had ever done
an addiction study with MDMA,
so we put two and two together
and thought, if it works for PTSD,
maybe MDMA would work for addictions.
So we developed this world's
first MDMA addiction study.
Okay, Dave.
MDMA has similar effects
to classic psychedelics,
but at a much, much lower level.
So allows you to think about
old narratives with new eyes, if you like.
You experienced
an extremely
traumatic event at the age of 12
and it's caused problems
lifelong thereafter.
But I'd say
you're in the good prognosis group.
Most people
with trauma don't require MDMA.
You sit down with the therapist
and over the weeks and months,
you learn mechanisms
to dampen that fear response
and to overcome
and put to bed those issues.
And that's fine for 50% of cases,
but it's the 50% who just can't do that.
This is participant B17,
session number three,
MDMA session number one.
- This is two tablets.
- Only two tablets.
A lot of people think MDMA
just raises serotonin.
It's a lot more sophisticated than that.
It increases sense of positive mood,
the kind of euphoria,
that ecstasy part if you'd like,
reduction of anxiety and depression
which is a really valuable part
of psychotherapy.
I love people, I hate pain,
and I want to stop people feeling pain.
And so many people love you, Dave.
I know,
I am the luckiest man alive.
You've touched the lives
of so many people
and they see that love,
and they see that strength.
I know they do.
They're so, people are so lovely.
Everybody knows what I've
been through now. I hid it for years, why?
Because that's what we did in the '70s.
31 years old I was
when I spoke to my dad about it.
I was 12 when my mum
was murdered and raped.
Your whole life has revolved
around not going there,
and what MDMA does
is for a few precious hours,
it turns off that amygdala.
It takes away that fear.
Put them down.
How are you feeling?
First put them on,
I started to feel really anxious.
For about five or ten minutes,
I was thinking, "Oh God,
this isn't going to work."
And I just felt a bit more relaxed
and I went back to my bedroom.
The drug sessions themselves
with MDMA,
you encourage the patient
to be with the drug experience.
Let's let the medicine do its work.
And he was there.
The murderer.
And I just kind of took control, really.
I said, "You can't hurt me anymore.
You may have a knife
and you may want to use it.
But I'm not frightened of you anymore."
The medicine sort of knows
where to go.
It increases the release of oxytocin,
and oxytocin is a hormone that's released
from the brains of breastfeeding mothers,
which engenders this sense
of connectivity and empathy.
And then I
got out of bed and gave him a hug.
It was really bizarre.
- It feels really warm.
- Mm-hmm.
And then another, um, mechanism
is the amphetamine part of the molecule
has a speeding up or motivating aspect
which helps the patient engage
in the therapy.
I'm in charge. I'm in charge.
I'm in charge.
- Mm-hmm.
- Not you, amygdala. I'm in charge.
You've done your bit, now sod off.
Get out!
Sod off.
You're going to become the master
of your own mind, Dave.
It doesn't need to control you.
You can tell it what to think.
Now it was a small study,
but it's a great starting point.
I think as we look forward
into the future for MDMA
and other psychedelics,
I think we're gonna see a broadening
of different conditions and diagnoses.
Dave, give me a hug.
I think we're doing some good work.
We've done some good work.
Dave, it's
Studies exploring
the therapeutic potential of MDMA
are now proliferating
all around the world.
But this research follows on the heels
of decades of misinformation
and flawed science.
In 2001,
they did a brain scan of this woman,
first on MTV and then on Oprah,
and it was graphically manipulated to show
that she had holes in her brain.
Look how almost moth-eaten
it looks there.
She'd have been dead
if she had all those holes in her brain.
- You'd legalize something
- Let's not talk about legalizing
- where brain damage is a possibility?
- Just because drugs have risks
is not a reason to criminalize them.
- Everything has risks.
- You don't even know what the risks are.
I know more than you.
I researched it for a long time.
I funded research, animals and humans.
Dr. George Ricaurte
of the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore
has uncovered alarming evidence
that ecstasy destroys brain cells.
MDMA is a highly,
highly neurotoxic substance,
after a single moderate dose.
Then later,
they did an analysis
of one of the primate's brain
and they discovered that instead of MDMA
they'd been giving methamphetamine.
In 2003, his study was retracted,
and it was just a massive scandal.
And I think that that was a sea change
in the attitudes towards MDMA.
In 2000, Michael Mithoefer and I met.
And Rick said, um, "Psychiatrist?"
"And you want to do psychedelic research?"
"You can do it here and we'll help you."
Michael was an expert in PTSD.
We're like,
"Great, MDMA's great for PTSD."
Um, and so, it was in 2000, 20 years ago,
that Michael and I really formed
the most important collaboration.
We did MDMA therapy with a therapist
several times
and that was back when it was legal.
And that was part of why we realized
what an important tool this might be
because we experienced how much
it helped us with honest communication
and really being able to listen
to each other
without defensiveness or blame.
Everybody has issues
if you're together for 50 years.
How'd that 50 years happen, eh?
Well, I think we both were rebels
and liked bucking the system.
I went into psychiatry
and Annie joined me
because of our interest
in the healing potential
of non-ordinary states of consciousness.
We thought at that time
that we wouldn't be able to do it
with any of the medicines
that had become illegal.
I think that was
part of the frustration,
that we knew that psychedelics
had been used that way in the past.
After a two and a half year
process of delay and frustration,
we got the DEA permission
in March of 2004,
and a couple months later
we enrolled our first person
in our first phase II trial,
which is the first time you give a drug
to people with a diagnosis
to test treatment and safety
in that population of people.
So we were working with people that had
chronic post-traumatic stress disorder,
who had not responded
to therapy and medicines.
Okay, ready to take
your first capsule?
PTSD is strange.
You don't trust anybody.
So you have this, like, constant paranoia.
Nightmares every night, waking up
covered in sweat, and you can't sleep.
And then you're just constantly exhausted,
which makes the stress worse,
which, I have a traumatic brain injury,
stress and lack of sleep makes that worse.
And it's this giant downward spiral.
My trauma started early.
There was abuse in the household
when I grew up.
I then joined the military
and was in Iraq, 2005, 2006.
Base I was on
got mortared pretty much daily.
On MDMA it felt like
I was underwater scuba diving.
I felt really comfortable,
and it allowed me to open up.
Out of all the bad shit in Iraq,
the worst thing was coming home.
What's weird is the mortars,
explosions, loud noises, all that stuff
didn't bother me till I got home.
This past 4th of July,
my neighbor had decided
to set off massive amounts of fireworks
to the point where
my house was actually shaking.
And I was more terrified
then than I ever was in Iraq.
And I don't understand why.
I mean, I was in my closet,
in body armor, physically shaking
And I couldn't move.
But that was never the case in Iraq.
It's not like magic bullet
that everything's perfect.
I mean, life is still kind of a struggle
for all of us, right?
But to see symptoms get better
so that they can get up, and work,
or sleep, or not be angry anymore
at what happened.
It just changes people's lives.
The only thing
I've really been thinking about a lot is,
I hope this stuff stays permanently.
I'm just worried about, like,
the anxiety and
and not being able to go into crowds,
and just mostly the involuntary reactions.
I'm wondering about
taking a few minutes now just to feel
that place in you
that's longing for something different,
and kind of maybe be present with that
for a few minutes.
For probably
the first six months,
I was convinced this was just
a temporary reprieve and then it wasn't.
I mean, I can remember the first day
that I didn't think of killing myself
for the first time in eight years.
My story is the same story
as millions of veterans.
Where my story becomes unique,
is the fact that I took MDMA three times.
It saved my life.
It's the reason my son has a father
instead of a folded flag.
I was raised, you know, in the '80s
and '90s, the D.A.R.E. era,
where we had good drugs and bad drugs.
Well, good drugs led to an opiate epidemic
and bad drugs heal PTSD.
So I think our definitions
of those need to change.
This is drugs.
This is your brain on drugs.
Any questions?
Today, there's a drug
and alcohol abuse epidemic in this country
and no one is safe from it.
Not you, not me,
and certainly not our children.
When I hear war on drugs,
I hear war on people.
We got to the point in this country
where you can't outright criminalize
a particular people,
that's against the law.
You can criminalize a substance that
that particular group of people use,
and have a backdoor
entrance into their communities.
That is and was a travesty.
And we fill our prisons up with people,
and we wonder why there's people
that are so enraged with the system.
I've been
on the Winthrop Police Department
for ten years.
I started off as a patrol officer.
When they come into the police department
for the start of their shift,
patrol officers
have to review dispatch logs,
to be caught up with the narrative
of the community.
So you're sitting there
reading and scanning,
looks like there
was a domestic violence here again.
Somebody who has an alcohol use disorder
got medically transported,
family's havin' an issue with their son,
who has ADHD and anxiety,
that went to the hospital.
There is so much information
about human suffering
in this computer system.
What are we doing with it?
Nothing other than traditional policing.
Arrest and cultivate cases
that play out in court.
So if you're really tryin' to make
a difference
with the amount of people
getting arrested,
or the amount of people crisscrossing
in a high-stakes way with the police,
you got to take that bit of information
and use it.
Any civilian we lose is too many.
There's a whole different mindset that
they're trying to teach officers now,
and it's it's labeled guardianship.
What's at stake is people's lives,
people's families.
I'm noticing an uptick in stress
in our police personnel.
There's more police officers right now
dying by their own hands,
and by their own firearm than
there are officers being killed by others.
So I went to the International Association
of Chiefs of Police conference,
and Dr. Doblin is there to present
the preliminary research
on MDMA-assisted psychotherapy for PTSD.
I couldn't believe
there was hard science being done
around this Schedule I substance
showing how effective it is.
So, I asked,
"Dr. Doblin, how can I help with this?"
And he said, "You know, the best way
to help
would be to become
a MDMA-assisted psychotherapist."
So I might be the only MDMA-assisted
psychotherapy track trainee
who is a working police officer.
Yeah, my chief and I have been talking
about heart-focused policing.
You know, trying to build trust
in the community.
There's like years of years
of reparative work
that has to happen
and someone's got to suck it up and do it.
You know?
And then hopefully it'll make the job
a little safer for our officers too.
Yeah, 'cause for you
and the other police officers,
you're at the point of the spear.
You have to deal with it,
is what it comes down to.
I believe that if I'm gonna be
the best possible psychotherapist
using this modality to help people,
I gotta understand where they're going
and where they're coming back from.
Fear came up, fear.
So much fear.
Like they're afraid of us.
But I'm able to have these thoughts,
but I'm not getting sad.
- Well, now, you're just seeing it.
- Exactly.
- You're just seeing the truth.
- Right.
But it's not overwhelming me.
And I can explore sadness
without becoming sad.
- I dunno how to explain it. Does
- I think you explained it beautifully.
So there's a lot of tension
right now.
Trauma begets trauma.
In high-risk situations,
leading to tragedy.
Harming our police, harming our people.
If they can access a therapeutic modality
that can take that away,
maybe these groups can start interacting
with each other
in a less aggressive and intense manner.
There's no way this is only good for PTSD.
To many people,
this seems too good to be true.
In therapy, this kind of change
that we see in a couple hours
is supposed to take years,
if it happens at all.
So that's part of the challenge.
People just have trouble believing it.
All I can say is,
we have data that was collected
with rigorous scientific design,
and this is what the data is showing us.
Now, if we're to do a podcast
ten years from now,
my prediction is,
we could see if it comes true,
is that there's gonna be about five
or 6,000 of these psychedelic centers
throughout the United States.
I do love the fact
that your strategy is so
You guys are patient
and calculated and you're doing it right.
So, Rick Doblin's 35-year quest
to get MDMA approved as a drug in therapy
is nearing success.
The phase III, which is the last big step,
large-scale trials of MDMA to treat PTSD,
the results are in
and they're really impressive.
Two-thirds of the people in the study
no longer qualified as having PTSD
after they'd gone through the trial.
That's pretty astonishing,
it's a very impressive degree of success
and the treatment effect,
a measurement of how significant
the effect was was kind of off the charts.
And all the tens of millions of dollars
he's raised to do the phase III trials,
and the phase II trials of MDMA
has all come from philanthropists.
Not a dollar has come from, um, the NIH,
which funds most medical research
in this country.
What we've done is unprecedented
in drug development.
If I had a full understanding
of how difficult it was and if I knew
that it would take
a hundred million dollars,
and if I knew that in 1986,
I would think that's impossible.
I would not have bet
on the success of this strategy
five years, ten years ago,
um, but Rick would not be denied.
It didn't matter how long it took
and I'm just hoping that 2022,
which will be roughly 50 years
after I decided to go this route,
that we'll have MDMA
as a FDA-approved medicine,
and then I'll be able to switch gears
and become a psychedelic therapist.
So, you can say that
this entire 50 years has been, um
um, a preparation
for what I really wanted to do,
which is to become
a psychedelic therapist.
After I finished the study,
some of the realizations
and the way that my life changed
continued to unfold for months after that.
I'd never say I'm completely healed,
but I would say that my life is so
remarkably different than it was before,
it's almost hard for me to put myself
in the mental space of who I was.
- Hi!
- Hi, Lori!
- It's so good to see you.
- You too. Come on in.
Thank you.
It's been three years since the study.
How have you been doing?
I'd say I'm doing really well.
I feel, I mean, less victimized,
I guess, by life is a good way to put it.
Any instances where you normally
would have been triggered and
I used to feel
a lot of anxiety and fear when
I would arrive to my house by myself.
I'd be walking up to the door
and hear the dogs behind the door,
their nails on the hardwood floor.
And I'd just be overwhelmed
with anxiety and fear.
And a few months
after we finished our session,
I realized that the day
that I had discovered my mother
and that horrible scene,
that in the background,
I could hear her dogs on the floor
the whole time, the clicking of the nails.
And it was like, oh my goodness,
how could I have forgotten
that sound was such a soundtrack
to that that experience?
And in realizing that,
it really allowed me
to completely reframe it,
and now I don't have that problem.
Like, I can go home
and hear the dogs and I don't feel that,
that anxiety and fear like I did before.
And I think there are just instances
that maybe aren't as blatant as that one.
I have so much faith and belief
in the power of this type of work.
That even though they move on
into their everyday lives,
and challenges arise they're able
to kind of go back to this truth
that they experienced.
It's like a light bulb has gone off, and
They can't forget it.
Based on the data,
based on the impact in my life,
and other participants,
within a few years,
not only will VA embrace this,
so will the Department of Defense,
first responders,
even law enforcement will embrace this.
The fact that both myself and Rick Doblin
were invited to speak
at the International Association of
the Chiefs of Police annual convention
in 2018 speaks volumes.
And when you have the people
who literally ran the drug war
now turning around and saying,
"We were wrong, this can help,"
that's a major thing.
If we hadn't been challenging, um,
it's unclear whether MDMA
would be where it's at right now
in phase III and potentially, um
becoming a FDA-approved medicine
in association with psychotherapy.
We come into the main door here.
Let's face it, once you take away
the sociopolitical narrative
surrounding these drugs,
the data speaks for itself.
And then suddenly psychedelics
don't seem so crazy at all.
And we come through to the MDMA suite.
A really, really beautiful clinic
and it's rewriting the way
we do psychedelic medicine,
and it's right here
in the heart of Bristol.
Rick Doblin's vision
and perseverance has paid off
as MDMA nears government approval.
This comes at the same time
research into the therapeutic potential
of LSD and psilocybin is flourishing.
All three are drugs that were introduced
to Western culture in the 20th century.
But there is another psychedelic substance
that humans have been using
longer than any other,
for thousands of years. Mescaline.
Compared to the others,
mescaline has largely
been under the radar of science,
even though it is prized
as a sacred medicine
by indigenous peoples in the new world.
I wanted to understand why.
Previous EpisodeNext Episode